Case study: Reed Pond Walk, Franklands Village, Haywards Heath
To progress a development site to a point where homes are built and ready to sell is rarely a completely straightforward process. When complications arise – as in the case of Reed Pond Walk – that’s when the expertise and experience of our land managers really comes to the fore.
The site of interest
Franklands Village is a registered charity and the 300 houses there are run by a housing association which provides low-cost housing for local families.
The housing association was unsure how to utilise two pieces of land they owned to ensure the greatest benefit. A client of ours recommended they speak with our land managers who have expert knowledge of that area. The organisation had already secured planning permission to build houses on the sites but hadn’t found a developer that was interested in proceeding.
They couldn’t understand why and didn’t not have the finances at their disposal to develop the sites themselves.
The land itself was challenging. The two sites had only become available due to a geological land slip in the early 1990s. An underground water tank from a nearby block of flats had filled with groundwater until it eventually burst, causing the water to run down the hill it was situated on, causing the collapse of two houses on one side of the hill and four houses on the other side, as well as demolishing a road in between.
The housing association had managed to make the land safe and remove what was left of the houses, before eventually gaining planning permission on one side of the road to build two pairs of semi-detached homes. However, despite the approval, it was clear that the high cost of building on a slope had deterred developers who felt the project would not be financially viable.
Flats presented an alternative development solution
Taking everything into account, our team could see that on one of the sites a block of flats would present a more attractive development option than houses and this was presented to the client. Proportionally, engineering costs would likely be lower as this would allow developers to build into the slope. It would also negate the need for gardens around the footprint of the building and parking could be conveniently positioned at the front of the property.
The housing association was happy with that as a first phase. Our next step was to find a developer willing to take the project on. We reached out to Copperwood Developments who were interested in the proposition and were in a strong position to progress. Heads of Terms were agreed, an option agreement was signed and they submitted plans for 12 flats which were approved.
We helped the landowners negotiate a land price that was positive rather than negative, which had previously been the case with the four houses. Copperwood then chose an appropriate partner to deliver the scheme.
We brought financial viability to the site
At the same time, on the other side of the road, Franklands Village had already achieved planning permission for 18 flats in three blocks of six. But that wasn’t financially viable, again because of the issues around the slope owing to multiple retaining works and bridges that would have been required.
So our team suggested an alternative plan for 24 flats in two blocks. This offered a way to proceed without the bridges which dramatically decreased the build cost.
Copperwood submitted plans and permission was achieved. However, even the 24-flat plan failed to create a viable site in terms of land value because 35% of the development would have to be affordable housing in order to comply with planning guidelines. That meant eight of the 24 flats would not be as profitable.
So Copperwood returned to planning with exactly the same scheme but with a viability study which proved it was not viable to provide any affordable housing on the site. The costs were broken down into detail to demonstrate that the land value was essentially zero once the affordable housing element had been taken into account.
An independent review was then carried out at the request of the local authority. The case put forward by Copperwood was accepted, on condition that a review mechanism was included in the contract with the developer stating from every pound made over the total gross development value, 30 per cent would go to the council.
Land sale achieved
Upon grant of planning we sought another suitable partner for Copperwood to deliver the scheme for 24 flats.
Phase 1 is now built and sold. Phase 2 is under development and all properties are expected to be sold in the summer of 2025.
Transaction – Site acquired STP (Subject To Planning)
Client - Copperwood Developments
Planning status – None
Land parcel - 0.4 acres / 0.161 ha
Details - This redundant scrub land was acquired subject to planning consent being achieved. We then went on to arrange the partnership arrangements for both the 12 unit and 24 unit scheme to be built out and sold on the open market.